Álvaro Siza is not an architect

Photograph © Juan Rodríguez

It’s about time somebody says so.

Álvaro Siza is not an architect.

It may be late in the day to accuse him of fraud, but Álvaro Siza is not an architect.

Álvaro Siza is a poet.

And it’s not because I say so. Nor is it because another master of light, Alberto Campo Baeza, says so. His describe of Siza when the Portuguese master was recognised as a Doctor Honoris Causa was:

“If poetry is words conjugated with precision, able to stir the hearts of men, then Siza’s architecture does just that.”

Álvaro Siza is a poet because his work says so. His Piscinas das Mares constant rhyme with their surrounding landscape says so. The metric rhythm of his social housing in Quinta da Malagueira (Évora) says so. The verses drawn by the light shimmering on the tiles of the baptistery in Santa Maria en Marco de Canaveçes says so. And the metaphor in the Casa de Té in Boa Nova, built of the horizon, says so. So does the hyperbole of the FAUP Library. And the alliteration seizing the landscape in Serralves. And the antithesis between tradition and modernity generated in Santiago by the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporáneo. And the hyperbaton of the indoor itineraries through the Ibere Camargo Foundation

By definition, poetry is the manifestation of the beauty or aesthetic feelings through words, whether in verse or in prose. And Siza’s words are drawing.

But poetry, like Siza’s architecture, is not only beauty. Poetry requires sobriety and precision to choose just the right words and no more. If you can say something in two words, don’t use twenty. If you can draw something with two strokes, don’t use twenty. With his simple and at times almost naïve sketches, Siza is able to capture the essence of a place with that poetic precision where nothing is missing and nothing is overdone. Likewise, he is able to project the essence of a new space by merely drawing a sketch.

Siza’s architecture is on-going modernity inherited from Távora.

Siza’s architecture is Aalto’s place identity.

It is Louis I. Kahn’s materiality of natural light and Le Corbusier’s kinetic architecture. It is Wright, it is Zevi, it is Loos… it is Siza.

But Siza’s architecture is also Pessoa’s verses from his ‘Book of Disquiet” (“Everything in me is this tendency to immediately be something else”).

It is Saramago’s unfading prose in his novel ‘Blindness”. It is the stanzas of Eugénio de Andrade (called the poet of light) and the captivating surrealism of Mário Cesariny.

If architecture is defined as the art of designing and building, then perhaps we cannot deny that Siza is an Architect.

But if one of the definitions of poetry is that quality of person or a thing to generate an aesthetic emotion, then undoubtedly Álvaro Siza is a poet. And his work, while it is Architecture, is at the same time pure poetry.

Text translated by Beth Gelb
Arquitecto formado en la U. Europea de Madrid y la New School of Architecture and Design de San Diego (California, USA). | MArch bajo la docencia de Álvaro Siza, E. Souto de Moura, Aires Mateus, Carlos Ferrater o Fran Silvestre (con quien ha colaborado) entre otros. | Actualmente desarrolla su Tesis Doctoral sobre la materialidad de la luz natural y su carácter cinético en la obra de Siza, lo cual compagina con el trabajo del estudio (www.raulgarcia-studio.com)

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